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Obama's 'My Brother's Keeper' program to target minorities with high jobless rates

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 8:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is planning to introduce an initiative with specific targets: African-American and Hispanic men who have disproportionate rates of unemployment.

Under the “My Brother's Keeper” program, foundations, businesses and community groups would develop plans to help men of color at particularly vulnerable times of their lives, administration officials said.

In previewing the initiative during last month's State of the Union address, Obama said, “I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.”

Obama had planned to hold a White House event last week to officially present the project, but it has been postponed because of bad weather.

Among the challenges faced by the “My Brother's Keeper” program: The jobless rate for black men older than 20 in January was 12 percent, compared with 6.6 percent for the nation as a whole.

For Hispanic men older than 20, the jobless rate last month was 8.2 percent.

For younger blacks and Hispanics, unemployment rates are even higher.

One model for the new effort is a mentoring program in Chicago called “Becoming A Man,” which encourages young men to develop education and job training goals.

In a meeting with Obama a year ago, members of the BAM program talked about problems with gangs, drugs, gun violence and substandard schools in their neighborhoods, and how so many young people are at risk for lives of crime, poverty or early death.

Speaking after that meeting, the nation's first African-American president, who grew up with an absent father, said he told the group, “I had issues, too, when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving.”

Just as individuals have to change their approach and behavior, Obama said, “that's what it takes for communities to change. That's what it takes for countries to change. It's not easy.”

Young men in the BAM program are expected to attend the White House ceremony whenever it is re-scheduled.

Two Obama administration officials discussed the “My Brother's Keeper” program on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt Obama's announcement.

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